DIRECTOR: James Bobin
CAST: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Animal, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Walter, Statler, Waldorf, the rest of the Muppets
RUNNING TIME: 113 mins
BASICALLY…: The Muppets embark on a worldwide tour, but come across Kermit the Frog’s evil doppelganger Constantine who replaces him and enlists the gang on an international crime caper…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
It sure is nice to have the Muppets back on the big screen again. After their Oscar-winning return in 2011, Kermit and company have never been quite as big as they were all those years ago. So, when the news that a follow-up to that smash-hit – with only co-writer and co-star Jason Segal deciding not to return – came out, people became anxious. Would this new film, the eighth in the overall Muppet movie canon, reach the same heights as the last one or stoop to the lowest lows like with the ill-conceived 1999 film Muppets From Space?
Turns out it doesn’t do either. Muppets Most Wanted isn’t as good as the last one, but it’s still nowhere near bad. In fact, we don’t even dislike this film. There’s certainly a lot to enjoy albeit not quite as much as before.
It’s still the fun and zany type of humour we’ve come to expect from the Muppets, and it delivers a good chunk of it to a satisfying degree. Its gags continue to stretch to meta fourth-wall references, most notably its opening musical number which is a catchy tune entitled “We’re Doing A Sequel”, with knowing lyrics like “everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.” Most of them, thankfully, hit bullseye but there are other moments that you feel may have been missed opportunities. For instance, there’s one painfully obvious instance of product placement for Subway that somehow becomes a plot point. Knowing how they like to poke fun at themselves, you’d expect them to make a joke about it but they never do. It just becomes an on-screen plug that feels rather uncomfortable, especially with something like the Muppets.
If the gag rate can be hit-or-miss at times – though thankfully more hit than miss – then the human co-stars do their part to help lighten the mood. In particular, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell appear to be having a blast acting and singing alongside their respective fuzzy partners (Gervais, as henchman Dominic Badguy, with humorous villain/Kermit-lookalike Constantine; and Burrell, as a French Interpol agent this side of Clouseau, with Muppet favourite Sam the Eagle). But while Tina Fey, in what turns out to be an extended cameo as a Siberian prison guard, has a few funny moments she never gels quite as well as the other main humans, and she feels a little out of place here.
But at least Fey has it better than some of the major cameos that turn up throughout the movie. An honoured tradition with any Muppet project, the high-profile bit parts tend to vary as usual with some working fine – Celine Dion and Danny Trejo as “himself” are a couple of them – but the majority of them are the definition of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them. James McAvoy, for instance, pops up for a brief couple of seconds as a UPS delivery man; and Tom Hiddleston as magician prisoner “The Great Escapo” doesn’t even get a line. Although their appearances are amusing no matter how long their screen-time may be, it remains something of a problem with all the Muppet movies thus far when they bring in random celebrity walk-ons for no real rhyme or reason. For example, remember Sarah Silverman in the last movie? Of course not, she was only on-screen for a couple of seconds. It’s the same thing here with quite a few of these cameos. But it’s a Muppet tradition, so we suppose it’s to be expected from these films.
It still remains an entertaining fun-ride all throughout, with some catchy news songs by returning Oscar-winning songwriter Bret McKenzie (though perhaps no new classics like “Man or Muppet” became) and some clever and knowing gags that should raise a few chuckles here and there. Plus, it’s another chance to see Kermit and company on the big screen again after their too-long absence, and if there’s anything we can give huge credit to Muppets Most Wanted for, it’s for giving us that chance.
SO, TO SUM UP…
While a small step-down from its more emotionally-driven predecessor, Muppets Most Wanted is still a fun family caper with some funny jokes, toe-tapping musical numbers, and a whole slew of celebrity cameos which tend to vary in terms of quality. You’ll come out of the cinema having indeed “felt” something (geddit? Yeah, we suck.)